Greenbelt's Director of Planning Celia Craze doesn't quibble when it comes to Pepco's Reliability Project meeting Wednesday night, or its plan to cut down trees to prevent them from falling on power lines.
Essentially every street in the center part of Greenbelt has trees that will come down, Craze says—that's 547 trees at current count. The impact is going to be significant, she admits.
But Craze doesn't stop there. She points to trees saved. Greenbelt's arborist Lesley Riddle and Greenbelt Homes Inc. (GHI) arborist Matt Berres have walked the entire scope of the project and looked at "every single tree" that is marked to come down, she says.
And they've given input that Pepco has listened to, according to Craze. She points to Buddy Attick Park as an example. A lot of work that was going to be done there has been deleted from the plan.
Though she appreciates Pepco's working with the city, she doesn't soft glove its role as part of the problem. Of the trees coming down, according to her, a lot of them are young trees that sprang up in the past five years. The city wouldn't be looking at this magnitude of tree loss and pruning if Pepco had kept up with routine line maintenance, according to Craze.
Still she disagrees with the tendency to cast public utility companies as the "bad guys".
According to Craze, Pepco has a job to do and they've been patient with the city and GHI as it has gone through a tedious and drawn out review process—and she thinks that should be recognized.
"It's important to remember that it's not a good versus bad," Craze says.
The bottom line is the power lines are where they are, according to Craze, who puts her foot down at the idea of coming up with a zigzag pattern of power lines throughout the city. She sees that as impractical, costly, inefficient and as a plan that would result in greater cost to the utility and greater outages to the community.
As for the public's reaction, Craze is at a loss to explain specifically what troubles some opponents of the Reliability Project. She hears people saying "too many" and "too much," but she complains they're not saying if it's too much everywhere or whether they're talking about a specific location that has greater sensitivity than other areas.
People can walk around and see the trees that will be impacted, which are marked with red and orange paint, Craze said.
The city offered an outlet for public comment, announcing that residents can email email@example.com with questions and comments.
So far there are three emails, Craze said—they're all from her. Getting no emails, she sent them to see if the email is working.
Pepco has scheduled a meeting with Greenbelters tonight at 7 p.m. in the Council Room of the , but it will make its plans available to the public at 6:30 p.m. and will have staff on hand to talk with residents one-on-one.
In the meantime, Craze has a suggestion—"It's marked, it's out there, go look." And if people see something they don't understand or object to, she hopes they'll let the city know.